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Court Process for a Washington DUI

Posted by Aaron J. Wolff | Aug 26, 2012 | 0 Comments

Receiving a DUI often entails months of legal proceedings. As the breakdown below shows, a DUI charge in Washington State necessitates several mandatory steps. However, the average person can quickly become confused and overwhelmed, which is why you must consult a DUI attorney to maximize your chances in court. Only a capable DUI lawyer can navigate our complex legal system and ensure you are given every possible advantage in overturning or reducing your DUI sentence. The sequence of court hearings following a Washington DUI arrest are as follows:

Arraignment

The purpose of the arraignment is for the accused to be formally advised of the charge and to enter a plea, which should always be not guilty. The judge will accept the plea and then consider conditions to be imposed on the accused. For people who have no prior DUI arrests, typical conditions are law abiding behavior, not drive without a license and insurance, abstinence from alcohol and non-prescribed drugs and no driving without a license and insurance. In some jurisdictions, such as Seattle Municipal Court, a person may be required to install a functioning ignition interlock device or even have to post bail (even on their first DUI).

People who have prior DUI arrests will face more serious conditions such as bail, ignition interlock requirement or even house arrest while their case is pending. It is very important for the accused to have an attorney at the arraignment. Ideally, a person will have retained private counsel to assist them in entering their plea. If a defendant does not have a DUI lawyer with them at the arraignment, some jurisdictions (such as Kirkland and Redmond) their will be a public defender present at court to assist the accused with entering thei plea of not guilty and argue for the least restrictive conditions.

Pre-Trial Conference

The second step in the legal proceedings is the pre-trial conference where the DUI lawyer and the prosecutor negotiate the case. One of three things can happen at this hearing. First, if the government has made a favorable offer to resolve the case, a person could enter a plea to a reduced charge. Second, if further negotiations or investigation are warranted, a request to continue the pre-trial conference 4-6 weeks out could be made. Third, if the government is not making a favorable offer, the DUI attorney could request the case be set for a motions hearing by filing a declaration and memorandum in support of motions. The court would then select a date for the evidentiary hearing

Motions

Typical motions for a Washington DUI charge are whether there was probable cause to stop/detain/arrest, admissiblity of the field tests and/or portable breath test, custodial statements made by the accused and whether the breath or blood test was administered according to all required protocols and procedures. The arresting officer is subpoenaed and required to appear at this hearing. The arresting officer and any other witnesses will testify, be cross-examined and then the prosecutor and DUI attorney will present argument to the court and the judge will decide on the admissibilty of evidence.

Readiness Hearing (or Jury Call)

This hearing is the last stage before trial where the prosecutor and DUI lawyer attempt to negotiate a resolution to the case. If a deal is reached, a person could enter a plea at this hearing. Alternatively, if a deal is not reached, both parties will inform the court if they are ready to proceed to trial. If both parties answer ready to trial, a date is then selected. If one or both of the parties are not ready to proceed to trial (for example, when a witness is not available), the readiness hearing (or jury call) will be reset roughly a month out.

Trial

In Washington state, a person accused of DUI has a right to trial by a 6 person jury. A person may waive a jury trial and ask that it be set for a bench trial where the judge solely decides whether the accused is guilty or innocent of the charge of DUI. A jury trial for DUI typically lasts anywhere from 1-3 days. In order to convict a person for DUI, the jury must reach a unanimous verdict.

Sentencing

If you are convicted of your DUI charge the final step in the process is sentencing. The judge will hear from the prosecutor, defense attorney and the defendant (if he or she chooses to allocute), and then will decide on the appropriate sentence. The judge will consider a person's history and the facts of the case at sentencing. If a person is convicted of DUI, there are certain penalties that must be imposed.

In all circumstances where you are involved with a DUI charge, never attempt to go through the DUI process alone. With a capable Seattle DUI attorney by your side, you have the greatest chance at getting the best possible outcome. The attorneys at Wolff Criminal Defense are available 7 days a week and may be reached directly 7 days a week at 425-284-2000 to discuss the facts of their case at a free, no-obligation initial consultation.

About the Author

Aaron J. Wolff

A former DUI prosecutor, Aaron Wolff has over 16 years of experience in representing people accused of DUI and is recognized as one of the leading defense lawyers in Washington State. His relentless and passionate advocacy has lead to superb ratings and outstanding reviews from former clients.

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